Grundberg Sees Yemen Truce as 'Rare Opportunity' for Peace

UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg (C) gives a news conference prior to his departure from Sanaa airport after three-day talks with Houthi officials, in Sanaa, Yemen, 13 April 2022. (EPA)
UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg (C) gives a news conference prior to his departure from Sanaa airport after three-day talks with Houthi officials, in Sanaa, Yemen, 13 April 2022. (EPA)
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Grundberg Sees Yemen Truce as 'Rare Opportunity' for Peace

UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg (C) gives a news conference prior to his departure from Sanaa airport after three-day talks with Houthi officials, in Sanaa, Yemen, 13 April 2022. (EPA)
UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg (C) gives a news conference prior to his departure from Sanaa airport after three-day talks with Houthi officials, in Sanaa, Yemen, 13 April 2022. (EPA)

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg stressed on Thursday that the two-month truce in the country provides a "rare opportunity" for peace.

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, he hailed the recent steps taken by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries to support the mediation efforts taken by the UN to reach a negotiation settlement to the conflict.

Grundberg said: "There is light at the end of the tunnel. After some three months of bilateral negotiations, the parties have agreed to a United Nations initiative for two-month nationwide, renewable truce. The first nationwide truce in six years."

He added that it started with the start of the holy month of Ramadan and includes provisions to improve the freedom of movement of goods and civilian men, women and children.

"Thus far, the agreement is broadly holding. It offers a moment of respite for Yemenis, and a moment of possibility for pursuing peace. But it requires continued commitment from the parties and broad support from the region and the international community to make sure it holds and becomes a turning point toward peace," he stressed.

"Since the start of the truce, there have been encouraging signs that halting the cyclical patterns of escalation is possible. There has been a significant reduction of violence and civilian casualties. There have been no confirmed airstrikes inside Yemen or cross-border attacks emanating from Yemen."

"There is more fuel flowing through Hodeidah ports into the country. Preparations are underway for commercial flights to depart from Sanaa airport for the first time since 2016."

"My Office is working to bring the parties together to open roads in Taiz and other governorates. The impact of this on Yemeni lives, as well as the symbolism, should not be underestimated," revealed Grundberg.

"Although the truce is broadly holding, reports of military operations, particularly around Marib, are concerning and must be addressed urgently through the mechanisms established by the truce," he continued.

"Many Yemenis have told me that they fear the truce will be exploited and used to set this stage for a new escalation. This fear is understandable given the lack of trust and past experience. And I want to remind the parties that the foundational principle of the Truce is that the respite it offers should be used to make progress toward ending the war, not to escalate it," he emphasized.

"The parties have publicly committed to de-escalation, and this is what the Yemeni people and the international community expect of them. My office has established coordination mechanisms for all aspects of the truce and I encourage the parties to engage seriously and meaningfully in those mechanisms."

The envoy spoke of "other positive signs of progress on confidence-building in recent weeks."

"We have been making headway on the exchange of detainees and I urge the parties to expeditiously agree on details of the release, so that Yemeni families may be reunited with their loved ones as soon as possible."

The Gulf Cooperation Council hosted at the end of March and beginning of April consultations with hundreds of Yemenis in Riyadh in stated support of a peaceful solution to the conflict, he noted.

"Several conclusions emerged from these consultations, including the need to eschew military solutions and commit to political dialogue under UN auspices. It demonstrated the importance of regional organizations in supporting United Nations peace efforts."

On April 7, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi took the decision to delegate his full authorities to a newly-formed Presidential Leadership Council. "In line with the United Nations Security Council, I welcome the creation of and assumption of responsibilities by the Presidential Leadership Council of the Government of Yemen that reflects a broader array of political actors," said Grundberg.

"The UN Security Council has expressed its expectation that the formation of the Presidential Leadership Council will form an important step towards stability and an inclusive Yemeni-led and owned political settlement under United Nations auspices," he stated.

"I look forward to engaging with the Presidential Leadership Council to continue to work towards that end," he stressed.

He also welcomed the economic package that was announced by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Moreover, the envoy stressed the truce is a chance to steer Yemen in a new direction. "But to consolidate this path, and to prevent a slide back into fighting, there needs to be progress on the political front as well. Through dialogue, Yemenis need to determine and own a negotiated settlement to the conflict."

"The main message that has emerged from the Riyadh consultations so far is that Yemenis want the war to end. They want to live in safety and security, to be able to care for their families, to have access to public services, and to exercise their rights."

"Yemenis across political and geographical divides have stressed the dire economic situation in the country, pointing to the need to resume salary payments and service delivery, address the rising cost of living, ensure freedom of movement of people and goods, and bring together economic institutions," remarked Grundberg.

"Many Yemenis have pointed to the need for accountable and effective governance at all levels, including at the local level."

"Women have participated actively in these consultations and I am very encouraged by that. They have highlighted the disproportionate impact of the conflict and economic strains on them, called for their inclusion in peace talks, and for the protection for women and girls from all forms of violence."

"These priorities will shape next steps and my overall approach to reaching a sustainable solution," he remarked. "The truce offers a rare opportunity to pivot towards a peaceful future. The coming weeks will be a test of the parties' commitments to uphold their obligations."

"This is a time to build trust and confidence, which is not easy after more than seven years of conflict. Yemen will need the international community’s support as much as ever to maintain the momentum, and move toward finding an inclusive, peaceful and sustainable end to the conflict."



Ship Attacked by Houthis Sinks in Red Sea

A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024).  EPA
A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA
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Ship Attacked by Houthis Sinks in Red Sea

A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024).  EPA
A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA

A ship attacked by Yemen's Houthi militias has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday.

The Rubymar had been drifting after the attack in February. It marks the first ship sunk by the Houthis amid their monthslong attacks on shipping in the vital waterway.

Yemen's internationally recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had not been cleared for publication.

A statement issued by the Yemeni Foreign Ministry on Friday urged all concerned nations and regional and international organizations tasked with preserving maritime environments to take swift practical action to save the Red Sea from an imminent environmental catastrophe.

“Leaving the ship to its fate will result in serious harm to marine ecosystems and hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who rely on fishing, as well as potential damage to desalination plants along the Yemeni coast,” said the statement.


Palestinian Authority Hopes for Gaza Ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
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Palestinian Authority Hopes for Gaza Ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

The Palestinian Authority hopes a ceasefire can be agreed in the Gaza war in time for Ramadan, its foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said on Saturday.

Speaking at a news conference at a diplomatic forum in Antalya, Türkiye, Maliki said the PA would be "the only legitimate authority" to run Gaza after the war.

The PA, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating through mediators over a possible ceasefire in Gaza, with the aim of halting fighting in time for Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, due to begin this year on March 10.


Gaza Ceasefire Talks to Resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian Security Sources Say

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Gaza Ceasefire Talks to Resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian Security Sources Say

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)

Gaza ceasefire negotiations are due to resume in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said on Saturday.

The parties have agreed on the duration of a Gaza truce, as well as hostage and prisoner releases, they said.

The completion of the deal still requires an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Gaza and a return of its residents, they added, according to Reuters.

The sources said that an incident on Thursday incident in which more than 100 Palestinians seeking aid were killed by Israeli fire according to Gazan authorities, had not slowed down the talks, but instead pushed negotiators to hasten in order to preserve progress.


Israeli Strike Kills 3 Hezbollah Fighters in Lebanon

A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS
A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS
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Israeli Strike Kills 3 Hezbollah Fighters in Lebanon

A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS
A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS

An Israeli drone strike killed three Hezbollah fighters in south Lebanon on Saturday, security sources in Lebanon said, the latest to die in months of cross-border hostilities that have been fought in parallel to the Gaza war.

The men were killed when the car they were in was targeted on a coastal road near the town of Naqoura, the sources said. The Israeli army said it was checking reports on the incident, The Associated Press reported.

Israeli strikes since October have killed more than 200 Hezbollah fighters and some 50 civilians in Lebanon, while attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and five civilians. Tens of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese have fled villages on both sides of the frontier.

Hezbollah signalled this week that it would halt its attacks if Israel's Gaza offensive stops, but it is also ready to keep on fighting if the Gaza war continues. On Friday, Hezbollah announced the deaths of four members killed in Lebanon.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last Sunday indicated that Israel planned to increase attacks on Hezbollah in the event of a Gaza ceasefire, but was open to a diplomatic deal to withdraw Hezbollah fighters from the border.

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters on Thursday a halt to fighting in Gaza as early as next week would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities at the border.


France Demands Justice after Shooting of Palestinians in Gaza

France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
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France Demands Justice after Shooting of Palestinians in Gaza

France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he was angered by what Gaza authorities said was the shooting of more than 100 Palestinians seeking humanitarian aid and demanded "truth and justice" regarding the role of Israeli soldiers in the incident.
Gaza health authorities said Israeli forces on Thursday shot dead more than 100 Palestinians as they waited for an aid delivery.
Israel blamed the deaths on crowds that surrounded aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over. An Israeli official also said troops had "in a limited response" later fired on crowds they felt had posed a threat. He dismissed the casualty toll given by Gaza authorities but gave no figure himself.
"Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers. I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law," Macron said in a post on X.
He said it was imperative for an immediate ceasefire in the war to be put in place.
Speaking on France Inter radio on Friday, Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Paris would back the United Nations' call for an independent investigation.
"The humanitarian situation has been catastrophic for several weeks now and what happened is indefensible and unjustifiable. Israel needs to be able to hear it and it needs to stop," Sejourne told France Inter.
"We have gone a step further, people are fighting for food and there are riots. I heard the request from the Secretary General of the United Nations to open an independent investigation.”

France would not apply "double standards" to the Mideast conflict, Sejourne said, adding: "France calls things by their name".

"This applies when we designate Hamas as a terrorist group, but we must also call things by their name when there are atrocities in Gaza."

If an investigation should conclude that the Israeli shooting was a war crime, "then obviously this becomes a matter for the judiciary", he said.

Sejourne also said the thought of people dying of hunger in Gaza was "unbearable" for France.


Google Maps Sends UNIFIL Patrol into Hezbollah Trap

A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)
A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)
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Google Maps Sends UNIFIL Patrol into Hezbollah Trap

A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)
A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)

UN peacekeepers from the Indonesian battalion were "briefly detained" on Thursday night by locals associated with Hezbollah in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital.

Initial reports suggested the patrol entered the suburb accidentally. Locals associated with Hezbollah took them to a security committee headquarters for questioning.

The Lebanese army later intervened and relocated them to one of its bases nearby.

“The patrol was traveling from the south to Beirut and relied on Google Maps, which directed them through the suburb due to traffic,” a Lebanese security source, who requested anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL media office, said that the peacekeeping vehicle was on a routine logistical tour when it ended up on an unplanned route.

“The vehicle was stopped, and local individuals detained peacekeepers who were later released,” she was quoted by the National News Agency as saying.

“We are looking into the circumstances of what happened, but peacekeepers were not harmed,” Ardell said, without mentioning the number of peacekeepers involved in the incident.

“We emphasize that, in addition to freedom of movement inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, peacekeepers have the freedom and authorization from the Lebanese government to move throughout Lebanon for administrative and logistical reasons,” she noted.

The incident underscores the delicate situation in southern Lebanon, where UN forces face increasing risks amid escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.

According to a source close to UNIFIL, UN patrols in southern areas face challenges due to security risks and increased military activities between Hezbollah and Israel.

“UNIFIL leaders understand the situation’s sensitivity and handle it responsibly,” confirmed the source, who refused to be named.

It is worth noting that these attacks are not isolated incidents. They reflect broader tensions between international forces and local populations, adding strain to an already volatile region.


Yemen Renews Plea to Avert Sinking of ‘Rubymar’

Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)
Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)
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Yemen Renews Plea to Avert Sinking of ‘Rubymar’

Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)
Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)

As Western airstrikes persist in weakening Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the Yemeni government urged the international community to act to prevent an environmental disaster in those waters.

A statement issued by the Yemeni Foreign Ministry on Friday urged all concerned nations and regional and international organizations tasked with preserving maritime environments to take swift practical action to save the Red Sea from an imminent environmental catastrophe.

The appeal follows a Houthi attack on the Belize-flagged cargo ship Rubymar, which now faces the threat of sinking after being hit by missiles 12 days ago.

As Yemeni authorities work to salvage Rubymar, they expressed dismay over airstrikes hitting a Yemeni fishermen’s boat near the stranded vessel, causing casualties and damage.

The government warned that this second attack complicates rescue efforts and poses a significant environmental threat.

“The government emphasizes that this second targeting undermines rescue efforts and threatens to cause a widespread environmental disaster,” said the Foreign Ministry’s statement.

Rubymar, laden with hazardous cargo of fertilizers and oils, risks sinking near Yemeni shores, potentially harming marine life and livelihoods.

“Leaving the ship to its fate will result in serious harm to marine ecosystems and hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who rely on fishing, as well as potential damage to desalination plants along the Yemeni coast,” added the statement.

In related news, fresh Western airstrikes hit Houthi targets in Hodeidah province on Friday, according to the Iran-backed group’s media, which acknowledged two strikes they described as “American and British” targeting the Jabana area west of Hodeidah city.

These airstrikes follow four raids the day before, also confirmed by the Houthis, targeting areas in the Salif and Durayhimi districts, north and south of Hodeidah.


Tunisia Raises Drinking Water Prices by Up to 16% due to Drought

A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Tunisia Raises Drinking Water Prices by Up to 16% due to Drought

A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Tunisia has raised its drinking water prices by up to 16%, the official gazette said on Friday, in response to a drought that has lasted five years.

After years of drought, average rainfall has increased in recent months but government officials said this week that Tunisian dams have only reached 35% of their stock capacity.

The North African country last year imposed a quota system for drinking water and a ban on its use in agriculture. Since last summer, it has been cutting off water supplies at night.

The price of water will be unchanged for small consumers, according to Reuters.

Those whose consumption exceeds 40 cubic metres face about 12% increase to 1.040 Tunisian dinars ($0.33) per cubic metre and consumers of between 70 and 100 cubic metres per quarter will pay 13.7% more at 1.490 dinars per cubic metre with immediate effect.

The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic metres and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic metre has increased by 16% to 2.310 dinars.


OCHA: Gaza Famine 'Almost Inevitable'

A volunteer distributes rations of red lentil soup to displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 18, 2024. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)
A volunteer distributes rations of red lentil soup to displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 18, 2024. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)
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OCHA: Gaza Famine 'Almost Inevitable'

A volunteer distributes rations of red lentil soup to displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 18, 2024. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)
A volunteer distributes rations of red lentil soup to displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 18, 2024. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Famine in the Gaza Strip is almost inevitable unless the Israel-Hamas war changes, the United Nations said Friday.

The UN and other humanitarian actors have not yet declared a state of famine in Gaza, despite worsening conditions in the Palestinian territory since the war started with the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.

However, "once a famine is declared, it is too late for too many people", said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

"We don't want to get to that situation and we need things to change before that," he told a briefing in Geneva, AFP reported.

Humanitarian agencies say conditions for the 2.2 million people in Gaza are now dire.

"We have to look at what more and more voices, more and more loudly, are saying about the food security situation across the Gaza Strip, in particular in the north," said Laerke.

"If something doesn't change, a famine is almost inevitable on the current trends."

In Somalia in 2011, when famine was officially declared, half of the total number of victims of the disaster had already died of starvation.

Laerke cited the near-total closure of commercial food imports, the "trickle of trucks" coming in with food aid, and the "massive access constraints" to moving around inside the Palestinian territory.

"All these things combined lead us to this warning that we do have a very, very dire situation coming towards us at very high speed," he said.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that according to statistics compiled by the Hamas-run health ministry, 10 children have been "officially registered, in a hospital, as having starved to death".

"The unoffical numbers can unfortunately be expected to be higher," he told the briefing.

Laerke said seeing such warning signs were extremely worrying, particularly given than the food security before the war was relatively good.

The coastal territory had been producing its own food, but now, "the production of foodstuff within Gaza itself is almost impossible", including the key fishing industry which has "completely stopped".

"So the very foundation for people's daily sustenance is being ripped away," he said.

Israeli forces in war-ravaged Gaza opened fire Thursday as Palestinian civilians scrambled for food aid during a chaotic incident which the health ministry said killed more than 100 people.

The Israeli military said a "stampede" occurred when thousands of desperate Gazans surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over.

The UN was not involved in the convoy.

"People are so desperate for food, for fresh water, for any supplies, they risk their lives in getting any food, any supplies to support their children and themselves," Lindmeier said.

"This is the real catastrophe here: that food and supplies are so scarce that we see these situations."


UN: Sudanese Living In 'Sheer Terror'

Sudanese civilians are living in "sheer terror" due to the "ruthless, senseless conflict - AFP
Sudanese civilians are living in "sheer terror" due to the "ruthless, senseless conflict - AFP
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UN: Sudanese Living In 'Sheer Terror'

Sudanese civilians are living in "sheer terror" due to the "ruthless, senseless conflict - AFP
Sudanese civilians are living in "sheer terror" due to the "ruthless, senseless conflict - AFP

Sudanese civilians are living in "sheer terror" due to the "ruthless, senseless conflict" that is upending the country and posing a risk to regional peace, the UN rights chief said Friday.

Volker Turk said the crisis in Sudan was marked by an insidious disregard for human life.

Fighting that broke out in April last year between Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, his former deputy and commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The conflict has killed thousands and sparked a humanitarian disaster.

Around 25 million people -- more than half the population -- need aid, including nearly 18 million who face acute food insecurity, according to UN numbers.

"The crisis in Sudan is a tragedy that appears to have slipped into the fog of global amnesia," Turk told the UN Human Rights Council.

He called it a "ruthless, senseless conflict" in which thousands have been killed, "seemingly without remorse".

The warring parties "have manufactured a climate of sheer terror, forcing millions to flee", he said.

Turk said both sides had consistently acted with impunity for multiple rights violations, while any talks towards peace have stagnated.

"Sudan has become a living nightmare," he said.

A report before the UN rights council highlights gross violations and abuses of international human rights law committed by the warring parties between April and December.

It also details serious violations of international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes, or other atrocity crimes.

Turk said that at least 14,600 people had been killed and 26,000 others injured, though the true toll would be much higher.

Besides heavy artillery, "sexual violence as a weapon of war, including rape, has been a defining -- and despicable -- characteristic of this crisis", said Turk.

The UN high commissioner for human rights said he was deeply worried for thousands of civilians held in arbitrary detention.

And he was troubled by reports of civilians mobilizing, fearing it could increase the chances of Sudan sliding into a spiral of protracted civil war.

He noted that 80 percent of hospitals were out of service, while the apparently deliberate denial of safe access for humanitarian agencies could amount to a war crime.

Turk said the destruction hospitals and schools would have lasting effects on access to health and education.

"With more than eight million forced to flee within Sudan and to neighbouring countries, this crisis is upending the country and profoundly threatening peace, security and humanitarian conditions throughout the entire region," he added.

Turk urged countries to increase donations to the humanitarian response plan for Sudan, which is currently just four percent funded.

He lamented the lack of effective dialogue towards ending the conflict.

"The fighting parties must agree to return to peace, without delay," Turk said.

"And... the international community must refocus its attention on this deplorable crisis before it descends even further into chaos."